Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland – The Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation program completed its first aerial refueling flight with an E-2D aircraft on August 18 at MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois.
The Boeing-owned MQ-25 test asset known as T1 transferred fuel to an E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, the latest variant of the E-2 platform that was upgraded with a in-flight refueling capacity in 2019.
“Once operational, the MQ-25 will refuel all platforms capable of receiving receivers, including E-2,” said Captain Chad Reed, program manager of the unmanned transport aviation (PMA-268 ) of the Navy. “This flight allows us to expedite the arrival of the Stingray into the fleet, where its refueling capability will significantly increase the range and operational flexibility of the air wing and carrier strike group.”
This test marks the second refueling flight of the MQ-25 program. In June, the government / industry team completed the first historic unmanned refueling flight with a F / A-18 Super Hornet.
During the six-hour flight, the pilots of the Navy’s E-2D from Two Zero (VX) 20 Air Test and Evaluation Squadron approached T1, conducted training evaluations, wake readings, drug tracking and traffic jams with MQ-25 test active at a calibrated airspeed of 220 knots. (KCAS) and 10,000 feet. This test allows the program to analyze the aerodynamic interaction of the two planes. The team can then determine if guidance and control adjustments are needed and perform those software updates early, without impacting the development testing schedule.
T1 testing will continue over the next few months to include flight envelope expansion, engine testing and deck handling demonstrations aboard an aircraft carrier prior to delivery of engineering aircraft, MQ-25 manufacturing and development next year.
“The MQ-25 paves the way for the transformation of naval aviation to include advanced unmanned platforms,” said Captain Michael France, Commodore of Airborne Command & Control and Logistics Wing (ACCLW). “Our Fleet Integration Team (FIT) is actively preparing for the arrival of the Stingray and we are excited about the innovative capabilities of the MQ-25 that will transform our mobility and power projection. For the first time, the eyes and ears of the fleet will now be able to provide up-to-the-minute information from the depths of the theater to aid rapid decision-making by the leadership of the carrier strike group. “
The ACCLW will integrate the MQ-25A Stingray into the carrier’s air squadron alongside E-2 and C-2 squadrons. The Stingray’s persistent tanking mission, coupled with the new E-2D air-to-air refueling capability, will enhance the Hawkeye’s ability to provide comprehensive combat management for extended periods of time from anywhere in space. battle.
The MQ-25A FIT works with PMA-268 and Boeing to ensure the end user (MQ-25 operators) has early entry as the aircraft moves quickly from development to testing. The Navy will begin setting up the fleet replacement squadron, Unmanned Carrier-Launched Multi-Role Squadron (VUQ) 10, later this year, followed by two MQ-25A, VUQ-11 and 12 squadrons. will deploy detachments to the US Navy’s aircraft carriers.
The MQ-25 will be the world’s first operational unmanned aircraft and will provide essential aerial refueling and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities that will dramatically expand the global reach, operational flexibility and lethality of the Carrier Air Wing and the Carrier Strike Group. The Stingray is a fundamental step towards the Navy’s strategic vision of a future fleet augmented by unmanned systems to punctuate the evolving challenges of the 21st century.
MQ-25 and Stingray are registered trademarks of the Department of the Navy.